For Orioles, When It Rains, It Pours
Sunday, August 7, 2005
ARLINGTON, Tex., Aug. 6 -- By the time the approaching dark clouds finally spilled their contents all over Ameriquest Field early Saturday evening, it was already the ninth inning of a blowout, so the umpires let the game go on, to sometimes comic effect. Infielders could see their reflections in the puddles beneath their feet. And because the storm was so fast-moving, at one point the right fielder could have lost a ball in the rain, while the left fielder could have lost it in the sun.
"It was kind of like, 'Stick your foot in the batter's box and hope [the mud] doesn't come up to your ankles,' " Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said.
That the Orioles can laugh at their plight these days, such as in the aftermath of Saturday's 10-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, surely can be seen as a good sign -- because in days past it might have traumatized the team to see its young starting pitcher battered for eight earned runs, or its offense shut down by a journeyman reliever-turned-starter, or its new manager suffering his first official career loss.
Perlozzo's honeymoon lasted exactly two days. On Day 3, as his record as Lee Mazzilli's replacement fell to 2-1, Perlozzo was peppered with second-guessing questions about his decision to leave right-hander Daniel Cabrera in the game to absorb a six-run beating in the second inning, then finally yank him after Cabrera gave up two more runs in the fourth.
"I thought, 'In this ballpark, if Daniel could get us out of that [second] inning, and get us through the fifth, we have a shot at that ballgame,' " Perlozzo said.
Having trailed at one point by nine runs while being shut down by Rangers emergency starter John Wasdin, by the end of the game there was nothing for the Orioles to do but have fun in the torrential downpour and swing for the fences. With the rain falling almost sideways in the ninth, David Newhan peered between the raindrops and connected for a 422-foot homer, accounting for the Orioles' final run.
"The Lord," Newhan said, "parted the rain like the Red Sea for me."
Cabrera's rough outing came on a day in which he had perhaps his best stuff of the season. If he had done nothing more than stand back and pump four-seam fastballs, one after another, there is a pretty good chance the Rangers may have never gotten a ball out of the infield, so devastating was Cabrera's heat.
In the first inning, Cabrera struck out the side on -- in chronological order of third strikes -- an 89-mph slider, a 98-mph fastball and a 99-mph fastball. In the home dugout along the first base line, where the Rangers had a clear view of the radar readout in left field, their remaining hitters must have been gulping hard.
"When you strike out all three guys," Perlozzo said, "sometimes instead of going out the next inning to get people out, you go out there to strike people out."
Once the leadoff man in the second inning -- Hank Blalock, who singled to right -- got on base and forced Cabrera to pitch from the stretch position, he quickly lost sight of the strike zone and began to unravel.
Alfonso Soriano followed with another single and then, following a strikeout, Cabrera walked three straight batters, the last two of which forced in runs.
Separate mound visits by pitching coach Ray Miller and shortstop Miguel Tejada -- the latter appearing far more stern -- seemed to help Cabrera find the strike zone again, but he laid a 3-2 fastball over the plate to David Dellucci, who crushed it over the left field wall for a grand slam.
And when Cabrera gives up homers, they tend to be big ones: This season, he has given up only two homers with the bases empty, but nine with runners on base, including two grand slams.
Cabrera said was guilty of trying to pitch too finely to the Rangers, working the corners, "instead of throwing it down the middle."
By the end of the fourth, as the Rangers tacked on two more runs against Cabrera and two more against rookie reliever Chris Ray to make the score 10-1, press box mavens were digging through the history books to find the last Orioles position player who made a pitching appearance. (For the record, it was Manny Alexander in April 19, 1996.) It never came to that for the Orioles on Saturday, which is a good thing for Perlozzo.
"We're trying to rest our [position players]," Perlozzo said, when asked who might have been his choice to mop up, "so it probably would have been me."